Crime and Courts

Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.
Nxivm

Judge Denies Convicted Self-Help Guru's Motion for New Trial in Alleged Sex Cult Case

What to Know

  • A federal judge denied a motion for a new trial from convicted self-improvement cult guru Keith Raniere.
  • Raniere is not entitled to a new trial on the charges of sex trafficking and coercing women into sex he was convicted of last year, Judge Nicholas Garaufis of Brooklyn federal court ruled Friday.

 A federal judge denied a motion for a new trial from convicted self-improvement cult guru Keith Raniere.

Raniere is not entitled to a new trial on the charges of sex trafficking and coercing women into sex he was convicted of last year, Judge Nicholas Garaufis of Brooklyn federal court ruled Friday.

Prosecutors said that as the leader of a cult-like group called NXIVM, Raniere used blackmail and punishment to turn his female victims into sex slaves.

Witnesses testified that Raniere’s “slaves” were forced to provide nude photos as “collateral” to keep them in line.

Raniere was convicted in June 2019 of charges including racketeering, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, and sex trafficking.

He demanded a new trial in March, arguing that witnesses including two of his victims lied about their plans to sue him civilly.

Raniere attorney Marc Agnifilo argued in his motion for a new trial that two women identified as Daniela and Nicole committed perjury when they testified that they did not plan a civil lawsuit against Raniere. He contended that two were among the “Jane Doe” plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit filed in January against Raniere and 14 associates.

Garaufis said Raniere is not entitled to a new trial because he did not prove that any of the testimony was actually false.

“Assuming for present purposes that Daniela and Nicole are, in fact, among the Jane Doe plaintiffs in that action (which appears to be the case), this hardly proves that either of them had determined to join that action when they testified at trial more than six months before it was filed,” the judge wrote.

An email seeking comment was sent to Agnifilo.

The heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune has pleaded guilty to two charges in connection with the alleged NXIVM sex-trafficking cult case. Michael George reports.

Raniere's trial lasted weeks. It took a jury only a matter of hours to convict him last year. 

He was convicted on all seven counts, which included racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, sex trafficking conspiracy, sex trafficking and attempted sex trafficking charges.

Raniere - known within the group as "Vanguard" - oversaw a barbaric system in which women were told the best way to advance was to become a "slave" overseen by "masters," prosecutors said. The women were also expected to have sex with him and do menial chores for masters, and to keep the arrangement a secret or be publicly humiliated, according to prosecutors.

Raniere and NXIVM have been the subject of criticism for years, dating back to at least 2012 when the Times Union of Albany published a series of articles examining the organization and allegations that it was like a cult.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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